Case Study 3 - Introducing students to the issue then taking them to the issue.
A Māori and Pasifika Case Study from the Enhancing the Effectiveness of Tertiary Teaching and Learning through Assessment project.
Māori and Pasifika Case Study
Name: Te Karehana Wicks
Organisation: Te Kuratini o Poike, The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
Researcher: Oneroa Stewart
A Māori perspective tutor adopted the following strategy in response to her perceived need to bring class discussions out into the real world of modern Māori life of local iwi and hapu. Rather than just reading and discussing Māori issues within the classroom this tutor takes whole classes out for a whole week onto remote marae where students, mainly of white middle class origins and initially well out of their comfort zones are forced to experience another side of life and adapt to a different culture and attitude.
The strategy consists of preparing and taking all students onto a marae as manuhiri (visitors) then further preparing the same students to adopt the role of tangata whenua so they can understand the role of kaitiaki. Learning in the new environment is then much more than simple knowledge or vocabulary (that is prepared in the classrooms beforehand). It is learning the essentials of cooperation and management of resources.
Marae elders are actively engaged along with the tutor in assessing the transition of the students.
Initially there is some resistance, from the students (and even some tutors) but with improved preparation, proven technique and kaupapa the students make a change to build real relationships and improved attitudes.
About the tertiary teacher
Te Karehana Wicks is a “Māori perspectives” tutor and academic staff member of the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. As a Group Leader within Tutara Wananga, the Centre for Maori Education and development, she assists other tutors in a wide range of subject disciplines from foundation levels, certificates, diplomas and degrees.
She receives and coordinates all teaching requests, course designs and developments, and is the main tutor delivering a Maori perspective off campus on marae based activities within the Tauranga Moana region.
When time and opportunity permits she also encourages outside organisations (such as local government offices or commercial business) to seek her assistance (as a commercial activity) to deliver similar perspectives as she does to academic courses.
She describes her work as frequently “full-on” in terms of her workload of long hours of intense commitment when staying on marae as she takes her responsibility very seriously.
Although her main role is that of a teacher much of her experience and advice is sought community wide as a mentor for course content and delivery, as well as many socio-economic issues within her tribal region. Frequently this can build to a high stress load.
Te Karehana has taken the two modules on teaching and assessment included in the Certificate in Adult Teaching and Learning, CALT, attendance at one day seminars on campus, and working with Tutara Wananga staff on planning and assessment. These opportunities have allowed her to become more “savvy” on the process required for pre and post moderation requirements.
Te Karehana has the advantage of her former fifteen years’ industry experience and so she often puts her focus on aligning assessments with industry standards. “Professional development is really important because you can see ways you can actually add your uniqueness to it ... to be more relevant, more significant, more authentic, if you like, for want of a better word – more true.”
Views of assessment
Much of what she sees in planning documents is outdated and needs to be made more relevant to both traditional and modern needs of Māori as iwi and hapu.
In particular, Te Karehana is insistent that all assessment “needs to be fair, be valid and to be flexible.” But if and when required she is quite capable of thinking more than “a little outside the box to reach the end result.”
Assessment in such a Māori context and environment are rare. It is such a specialist area and those qualified and experienced are difficult to find.
Description of the assessment strategy
As a typical example of her work, Te Karehana is responsible for the planning, delivery and assessment of Māori resource management units within a diploma of environmental management or marine studies course. In order to combine theory with practice she would design a scenario that progresses from a formative to summative assessment.
The scenario described was if any of her students, when “graduated experts” might be seconded on to a local marae committee and are required to write to the iwi or hapu to advise them of a best course of action for a certain issue. The students are then taken to the marae, introduced to the issue, so they then become more involved in it rather than having to just read about it.
The reading part is contained within a course workbook that contains all necessary written information for the students. It is a guide only to all the tasks required during their stay on the marae that usually lasts up to one week. Te Karehana prefers to take all her students to a marae that is fairly distant, fairly basic in terms of amenities (such as an off-shore island) where the participants are deliberately put out of their normal comfort zone.
She is not trying to set up a Survivor type programme because on the noho marae there are no competitive groups but the formation of a cooperative whole. As part of her assessment Te Karehana is constantly observing the interrelationships of the students and the local kaumatua.
She frequently invites the elders to sign off tasks in student workbooks. This co-assessing of student work gives mana to the expectation of tino rangatiratanga.
When, after a few days on the marae, the students are required to change roles from being initial manuhiri to that of being kaitiaki. This is the important lift in status to the same as level of responsibility as the tangata whenua who have the guardian role of local resources. The students make the change from being simple observers to being the guardians.
Te Karehana is insistent that the key to the success of the programme is good preparation so there is no doubt of the student requirements, and picking a good support team.
Motivation for adopting the assessment strategy
Most of the students on the noho marae courses have a Pakeha middle class background with very little or no previous marae experience. She believes that being immersed in a reality situation such as on a noho marae the students learn over and above the course content – and that is more beneficial than being in a classroom and being expected to understand everything Maori from a book. But more than learning knowledge, the participating students learn to expand their thinking into new situations and form more tolerant attitudes. Such an experience will make them more suited to their future employment.
Strengths and limitations
Noho marae requires a personal involvement from the students to be seen and mix with tangata whenua. If students are going to end up working in policy and planning areas then they will gain valuable experience in how to work within a Māori environment, one that may be totally a million miles away from their office culture.
After the noho marae experience the students are at a level of confidence and have absorbed the sense and being of aroha and wairua. The students respond by wearing the appropriate clothing and “there’s a happy step in their lives when they come out.”
Frequently Te Karehana experiences some negativity from the students on her initial visit to the class. Resistance is often displayed by students laughing or having heads down. Often this is the result of the lead tutor for the course, who is usually not Māori, not having prepared the students for her arrival, or even the tutor not being fully committed to the course module, seeing the marae experience as lesser importance.
The very first task of the Māori tutor is to change that resistance and that negativity by explaining to all the participants (students and tutors) what they are going to do on the Marae, why and how. The kaupapa is then aligned to the learning outcomes. Students then become more calm and confident, especially when they lose their fear of being embarrassed or giving offence.
The use off all te reo Māori with no English during the powhiri welcome is difficult for most students to sit and look as if they are politely paying attention. However, careful preparation to explain the process beforehand can help make students more appreciative.
Te Karehana mentioned that classroom learning was something similar to laboratory learning, but that noho marae was like field testing. The suitability for such an applied experience really depends on a case by case basis, how the preparation is completed, being very clear with students on the expected outcomes and the assessment methods.
Receiving feedback and sharing the strategy
Response from students
Students have always given positive evaluations from the noho marae because they know that even if the assessments are going to happen on the marae there are no surprises. It is very similar to an open book, but instead the participants have to more observant by opening their ears and eyes to the Māori world around them. “Some students come from absolute nothing to just loving it. You know, by the time we get to that they’re ready to take on the world.”
Response from colleagues and the institution
Kaumatua who in part or whole, observe or assist in the course are frequently making suggestions for improvement to the students, congratulating them for their efforts. In te ao Māori this is the highest and most accepted form of criticism because the words come from those who are the acknowledged experts of tangata whenua.
Often over lunch at the marae her assistants and marae helpers are discussing informally the progress of the days activities. Te Karehana stated that she has never actually had a teaching evaluation within an institution completed by a colleague, but she would welcome the opportunity. She has in the past had complements from her peers in various institutions who ask “how did you manage to get them to do that?” Such lead-ins result in interesting discussions that she enjoys.
Te Karehana has recently completed both her degree in Environmental Management and Graduate Diploma in Maori Leadership. She has made frequent references in her assignments to her noho marae experiences.
When the opportunities arise she attends conferences as a speaker and has represented her iwi and hapu in various issues. She recently presented at a conference with the Department of Corrections on assessing programmes to cut the rate of re-offending. She used the same technique of taking some of the participants out of the conference into the bush, out of their known comfort zones and into an alien environment, to demonstrate how to achieve change in attitudes.
As a wahine toa with her own tribal organisation, Te Karehana will continue to teach noho marae experiences and to train up future leaders.